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Simply the best

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” —Ernest Hemingway

The subject is vulnerability. We avoid it like the plague, and for good reason. We can get hurt, really hurt.

Picture parents with outstretched arms encouraging their 11-month-old daughter to let go of the chair and risk a first step. She could fall on her face. Or at 5, when the training wheels are taken off and she attempts her first bike ride without them. Or at 12, when she summons up all her courage to invite the cute guy to her birthday party.

Taking risks is one of four things Hemingway said that the best people do. Some of us as children took to heart Whittier’s words, “Who never climbs, as rarely falls,” and Chaucer’s, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I like Anne Grady’s modern wording of that truth: “We crave certainty, and building emotional resilience requires us to get uncomfortable.”

The best people to be around and choose as teachers and lawmakers are those who resonate to and allow themselves to be shaken and stirred by good art, literature and music.

The best people are those whose word is their bond, whose word you can take to the bank, the people who have disciplined themselves to speak truth lovingly.

The best people are those who do more than look out for No. 1, who believe they truly are their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and will sacrifice a bit of their self-interest for the good of the whole.

Hemingway wasn’t perfect (like us!), but we can admire and aim to live up to those finer qualities he espoused.